HEALTH

Researchers say COVID-19 leads to worsening pregnancy complications

Feb 7, 2022, 6:34 PM | Updated: Apr 29, 2022, 11:10 am

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FILE: Image of a pregnant woman. Photo credit: Deseret News, Sara Reid

SALT LAKE CITY — Can COVID-19 make a bad pregnancy worse?  New research from the University of Utah shows the coronavirus can turn mild pregnancy symptoms into bigger complications. 

COVID-19 pregnancy complications

There are common complications in any kind of pregnancy, like high blood pressure, infections (other than COVID-19) and post-partum hemorrhaging. University of Utah Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Dr. Torri Metz, says women infected with COVID-19 either during or immediately after their pregnancy were 40 percent more likely to develop serious complications or die than people who were not infected.

“The people who have SARS CoV-2 really are at increased risk of having those common complications progress into something more,” Metz said.

Researchers combed over the data of more than 14,000 pregnant women at 17 medical centers across the country in 2020, before vaccines were available and before the Delta variant emerged.  Over 2,300 of those women tested positive for COVID-19.  Metz says infected pregnant women more likely to have moderate or severe COVID symptoms, which required hospitalization or breathing treatments.  Plus, smaller pregnancy complications became large issues for women with the coronavirus.

Metz said, “We know that SARS CoV-2, itself, can affect the placenta and can certainly put people at higher risk of developing more severe complications of preeclampsia or high blood pressure in pregnancy.”

The babies being born to these mothers did not see a significant amount of health issues. And only 1.2 percent of these newborns tested positive for the virus.  However, their deliveries were more complicated.

“The two findings that we did have related to [babies] are that we saw an increased risk of pre-term birth, and we also saw an increase in neo-natal ICU admission,” Metz said.

Why is this taking place?

Why is this happening?  Researchers are not 100 percent certain.  Metz says these problems may be related to the placenta being infected. Or it could be that pregnant women were more likely to delay getting treatment for COVID-19.  She says any delay in treatment for pregnant women could lead to more serious health issues.

She said, “A lot of these complications that we looked at are things that can evolve very rapidly in pregnancy.”

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

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Researchers say COVID-19 leads to worsening pregnancy complications